1985 DeTomaso Longchamp GTS
8-cyl. 5766cc/290hp 4bbl
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Alejandro De Tomaso was born into cattle money in the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina, but he turned his attentions to motor racing and became a giant in Italy’s automotive industry, eventually taking control of Maserati and Innocenti as well as the company that bore his name. After starting with racing cars, his first legitimate effort at a road car was the DeTomaso Mangusta, a Ford-powered mid-engine supercar with a body designed by Giorgio Giugiaro around a chassis by Giotto Bizzarini. It was launched in 1967.
The chassis proved alarmingly flexible, capable of both oversteer and understeer, and by the time Ford bought into DeTomaso, engineer Gianpaolo Dallara had given up on it. The Mangusta was replaced by the Tom Tjaarda-designed unibody Pantera, which Ford saw as the street-going successor to its Le Mans winning GT 40, and launched in 1970.
De Tomaso realized that the Ford connection could broaden his palette enormously and his next offering was the Deauville four-door sedan in 1971. It had a front- mounted Ford 351 cubic inch V-8, and was a basically a copy of Jaguar XJ6, as imagined by Ghia. It lingered on until 1988, but only 244 were built, as it was expensive as well as rust-prone.
DeTomaso went back to the drawing board and Tjaarda shortened the Deauville into the Longchamp coupe in 1972. It was aimed at the Mercedes-Benz and BMW coupes, but the Longchamp’s interior was cramped and its styling was bland. The Longchamp offered the same 330 bhp, 351 cubic inch V-8 as in the Pantera, and the option of a five-speed manual ZF gearbox instead of the Deauville’s automatic was available. About 17 five-speed cars are thought to have been built.
The series II was introduced in 1980, and a GTS version with wider wheel arches was launched at the Turin Motor Show. A Spyder was offered by Pavesi and a small number of GTS coupes converted. In 1985, the high-performance GTS/E, with twin round headlights, extra spoilers and a rear wing was introduced as yet another version.
Production totals are disputed, but it appears that about 395 Longchamp coupes were built and about 14 Spyders. After the 351 V-8 was discontinued in the U.S., engines came from Australia, but very few cars were built in the later years. The Longchamp was never sold in the U.S., though a few have been imported.
As a footnote, De Tomaso bought Maserati from Citroen in 1975 and in a cynical piece of badge-engineering produced the Maserati Kyalami in 1977, using a shortened Quattroporte chassis and Lonchamp styling. Despite the Maserati four-cam V-8, nobody was fooled, and the the plug was pulled on the Kyalami in 1983 after 150 had been sold. It was replaced by the disastrous Bi-Turbo sedan.